I went into my local bookstore looking for another book, which they didn't have but didn't want to leave empty-handed, so I picked this one up. If I read her most famous book, House of Spirits, it was long ago and I don't remember it. But a friend had recommended Paula, and it was one of those books that draws you in, so I knew she was a god writer, This book is brand new, even written during isolation in the current pandemic. I hadn't heard anything about it. As I started to read it, I didn't get the same sense of emotion and desperation as in Paula. Of course, she was writing about her dying daughter in Paula. That must be the worst experience for a parent. This book is more like a need to communicate in this time of isolation. Mainly, it is about being unashamedly and powerfully a feminist, and being an elder feminist at that. Reading this book was like listening to a friend go on and on about what she feels strongly about and why. To tell you the truth, the part of the book that lingered the longest is in her relationship with her third husband. Though I go back and forth with needing, wanting, and then not, a companion, reading her story planted yet another seed that it was not a bad idea, and possible to find someone to share life with at an advanced age.
The thing is, I did not write a review for every book I have read in the last few years since I began this website. I just realized I hadn't done this one that I read - maybe two years ago - although I really was moved by it. This was recommended by my book guru friend, Polli, a retired English teacher in Guam. It was written as the author, Isabel Allende, was living through her daughter's illness. It started out as a letter to her, to Paula, as she lay in a coma, "so that when you wake up, you will not be so lost." Allende seems to write stream of consciousness, weaving together all the pieces of history that made up their lives to that point. Her life story is pretty incredible, but combine that with the desperation a mother must feel as her child is stricken with a hopeless disease, a powerful memory, and great writing, and you have this compelling book.
My local book store has a display in front of their stores of recommendations. Currently, they have various top ten lists, including Barack Obama's top reads of 2020. This one was on it. I love books set in my home that are getting attention. The jacket blurb was intriguing, loosely describing the narrative, which starts with a boy, who fell into shark-infested waters, and was delivered to his mother, in the mouth of a shark. Something about this scene caught my attention - I know that sharks are revered, rather than feared in Hawaii. I know this culture, history, way of speaking, and was impressed with the author's skill in portraying the characters and their struggles in a way that rang true. Of course, he grew up here, he would know. He presents the characters so compellingly - they are complex, and you want to know what happens to them. You become attached to them, you feel their pain. Even the structure of the book makes you think. Throughout the book he tells the story through changing points of view, from one family member to the other. But the father doesn't tell his story until the LAST chapter.Oh my God, how brilliant. I'll leave that for you to appreciate. Let me just say, without giving anything away, that expands your perception of "reality" is valuable, like when you see "night marchers" or talk to someone who knows they did. There's something to that.